Aligning Indigenous and Western Pedagogies

We’ve been asked to reflect on the way that Western methods of teaching can be amalgamated with Indigenous teaching methods. The more I think about it, the more I see how crucial it is to embed the 8ways approach (2009) alongside westernized thinking right from the start of schooling. So, rather than just a single lesson, I’ve been reflecting on how a child’s first day at school might be changed to be better aligned with both schools of thought.

Traditionally, the first day of school sees the children shown around both the classroom and the wider school, right? This helps them find their way around and become familiar with the environment. They’re introduced to the school rules, routines and told what to do in case of an emergency. However, it is the orientation to the school environment that is jumping out at me….

I was thinking that a big part of this orientation should be about connecting students to the land on which they will be spending a significant portion of the next few years. This could be done in several ways. For example, instead of just quickly walking through the grounds, children could be encouraged to sit on the grass and actually feel its texture. If there is a vegie patch, the children should be introduced to it and perhaps partake in Story Sharing about its purpose and benefits. This could also segue into Community Links as the children explore how they could integrate what they are learning into their home environment.

Similarly, visualisation (AKA Learning Maps) could be employed as a technique to help children learn the layout of the school. They could be asked to walk to, say, the toilets- and then concentrate on embedding the directions in their minds.

Relationships are also a central tenet of Indigenous life. It would be great to see students introduced to an older “buddy” on this first day; someone with whom they get to spend some quality time getting to know each other. The older “buddy” can share some of their experiences and answer questions. This will help to foster a sense of belonging and acceptance in the younger student.

Overall, the 8ways and western pedagogies have much synergy. Merging the two would see children forming deeper attachments to not only the land which they occupy but the people they are sharing it with.

For more about 8ways, visit http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

References 

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. (2009). Retrieved from http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

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A day at the museum: exploring Aboriginal representations

Today a group of us visited the Melbourne museum to see the Indigenous section, as we are currently studying their history (which, incidentally, has been an eye-opener for a lot of people!) It was really interesting to see the radical shifts in the way In Indigenous people are now portrayed compared to some of the terrible representations of times past. Further, the link that they have with their land and also the ways in which they educate each other were strongly emphasised.

Overall the emphasis was on better integrating Aboriginal ways into Australian culture through the education of mainstream society. This ties in with the 8ways philosophy I’ve mentioned in my previous post.

Finally, it was interesting to listen in on some of the school groups that were also visiting, as the children were really engaged with what they saw. This again reinforces how excursions can be excellent learning spaces when properly selected and scaffolded.

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning, AKA “8ways”

8ways is a lot like a game of Connect 4, internet dating or being involved in politics- it’s all about making good connections. More specifically, it’s actually about recognizing the interconnectivity between all living things. A greater appreciation of this interconnectivity, rather than our current westernized emphasis on a me-me-me existence, is the key change I would like to see adopted from 8ways. Wow, this post just got heavy really quickly! But seriously, a shift in focus is sorely needed. We need to stop focusing on money and have a look at what actually matters. (For those of you playing at home, “Wine” is NOT the answer to the previous sentence!)

As far as 8ways complimenting our current educational system, the possiblities are endless. I mean, Story Sharing links right in with oral language development. Land Links goes hand in hand with presenting material in authentic contexts (this has been shown to be a key element in successful learning). For example, studying the life cycle of animals, changes in the seasons or the food chain all illuminate the importance of caring for the land. Plus, they are all learning actitivites which could be undertaken outside.

One aspect I particularly like about 8ways is that learning is focused on how/if the acquired knowledge can be utilized to help others in the community. This is such an important facet as it ensures knowledge is both relevant to the “greater good” but also disseminated beyond the immediate learning environment.

Children must taught in a way that shows the impact of their decisions on others. Further, the weight of importance should be given to things of lasting value, such as the land and human relationships. On a side note, I watched a documentary on the ABC the other day about human happiness all over the world. Consistently, people with close family and friends were significantly happier with their lives and able to recover from adversity faster. Really makes you reconsider what and how we are teaching our students.

For more information on 8ways, visit http://8ways.wikispaces.com/home

References

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. (2009). Retrieved from http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

Learning Spaces Continued

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about learning spaces recently. It’s funny how it’s gone from being solely about completing an assignment to some actual real-world application. In fact, I’ve noticed it creeping into my brain at the most unexpected times.  Annoyingly, this is often at about 4am when I should be sleeping….

However, today I went to visit one of my friends, Jenny, who has just had a new baby. I walked in and I realised shortly after that I was actually assessing her house as a learning environment. (Im sure to Jenny it looked like I was surveying the place as the site of a future robbery!)  I noted the wealth of toys and especially books (Jenny is a teacher) available for her three year old, Stella. But what really got me thinking was when she started talking about what they had been doing recently. For example they had been to the Tulip Festival in the Dandenongs and had had some face painting done whilst there. This led to much opportunity for discussion with Stella about various things such as animals, colours, people.

It highlighted to me the important role parents can play in turning every day into a learning opportunity for their children. By providing experiences for their children, parents expose them to a range of new situations and help provide a frame of reference for young minds.

Anyway, just thought I should note this down while it’s fresh in my head.

Redesigning Classrooms to Incorporate Plants & Animals

Just imagine it:  all of those awful asbestos laden classrooms are gone. The downside, of course, is that thousands of lawyers are now out of work. Oh wait: that’s not a bad thing either. So basically it’s a win-win for humanity!

Anyway, we have been charged with building a new type of classroom; one that will effectively see the entire school become a classroom of sorts. One of my favourite educational quotes is, “learning happens everywhere, not somewhere” (Callahan, 2010). As such, I envision lots of learning spaces with little differentiation between indoor and outdoor areas. Buildings would be designed to be energy efficient and maximise natural heating, cooling and lighting properties (cross breezes for ventilation, north facing etc etc).

I’d like to see the plant and animal life contained both within the classroom environment as well as beyond it. This links to a large body of research which shows the positive learning and developmental benefits of student interaction with animals.

There will be more than one veggie patch and the school will cultivate a culture of pride and achievement linked to its maintenance. Further, I would like the school to welcome in the community to visit the gardens as well as furthering their message of sustainability by starting veggie patches at students homes.

There are many schools who have similar programs to this in place. I dream of a day when they are the norm and not just a curiosity.

References

Callahan, D. (2010). Learning Happens Everywhere [digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com.

Developing a Personal Taxonomy

My first thought on encountering the word ‘taxonomy’ was, “isn’t that where they stuff dead animals?”  But, that’s actually taxidermy.

Taxonomy, as it turns out, refers to a framework of learning objectives through which you can shape your learning. It involves much reflection on the way you conduct yourself in different situations. It has three domains of operation, which for me oddly linked to Stephen King’s series ‘The Dark Tower’ which also talks about 3 levels of thinking, which range from lower to higher order thinking.

Overall I think it is a very beneficial framework to use as it encourages you to be more aware of the way you interact with the world (even beyond the teaching setting).

Reflecting on this, I realised that I actually do a lot of this self assessment in my everyday life, but often don’t really stop to think about its importance.

The things I find useful are the following questions:

Pre Task
What is my learning intention/goal?

How will I achieve this?

Do I know everything I need to know? If not, where can I find the information I need?

Do I have everything necessary to complete the task? (ie resources)

During The Task

Am I meeting my objective & timeframes?

If not, what steps can I take to get back on track?

Post task

Did I achieve my goal to the satisfaction of all concerned parties? Why/why not?

What did I do well?

Can this strategy be used in future projects?

What can I improve on?